Compost is an inexpensive alternative to chemical fertilizers, and it is less likely to harm sensitive roots. Chemical fertilizers can be extremely harsh on plants. Have you ever read the warning label on a bag of fertilizer about how you have to carefully water it in to prevent it from burning up the plants you are trying to help, or even burning your eyes or skin or pets’ feet? Kind of scary! Chemical fertilizers can also leave heavy metals like lead, arsenic and cadmium that can build up over time. A big shock of chemical fertilizer can also kill the very microbes that make soil fertile, dooming you to depend on using chemical fertilizers over and over again.
Many chemical fertilizers are made from petroleum and other non sustainable sources. The price of chemical fertilizers seems to get higher every year due to rising oil and shipping costs. On the other hand, compost doesn’t use any oil and doesn’t require much transportation. Using compost reduces our dependence on foreign oil and boosts soil health.
And unlike some chemical fertilizers, compost actually helps decontaminate soil. Don’t take our word for it. Here’s what the EPA says:
“The composting process has been shown to absorb odors and treat semivolatile and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), including heating fuels, polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and explosives. It has also been shown to bind heavy metals and prevent them from migrating to water resources or being absorbed by plants. The compost process degrades and, in some cases, completely eliminates wood preservatives, pesticides, and both chlorinated and nonchlorinated hydrocarbons in contaminated soils.”
Quick note to all of your chemical fertilizer and chemical pest control users out there.
Don’t freak out if you’ve been using chemical fertilizers, or if you still plan to use them. The trick is to follow the instructions carefully, NEVER overapply, and keep helping your soil fertility by adding more compost and organic materials on a regular basis. If you apply them properly, you won’t have to worry as much about burning your lawn and plants, or the chemical runoff going into your local waterways causing algae blooms. (Because that’s what happens when you over apply. It doesn’t make your plants extra healthy. It typically just washes away in heavy rains, right into your water supply.)
Instead of throwing away valuable nutrients, many gardeners choose to compost their grass clippings, leaves, trimmings, and vegetable scraps. Here are some of the reasons that compost is popular:
- Cheaper than chemical fertilizer
- Gradually releases nutrients
- Reduces disposal fees
- Diverts waste from the landfill
- Less stressful on roots
- Loosens soil
- Allows roots to spread out widely, preventing erosion
- Retains water like mulch
- Accelerates nutrient cycling
- Reduces oil dependence
- Sustainable improvement to the soil
- Reduced run-off and water pollution
- Reduced irrigation bill